dichotomy of being content and restless.
December 22, 2011 2:51 AM   Subscribe

Can one be content and yet vaguely restless in life?

I am doing decently in life both professionally and personally. I have a good job that gives me satisfaction. I have personal challenges that i am actively working on and making progress. I am single and have done the work to be happy within and don't really crave for another human being to have a relationship with anymore. If it happens so be it. I do however notice that i have the urge to physically connect with someone sometimes which i think is simply human. I have discovered that i could be bisexual and i am at peace with it. My parents have not really approved of this but i have come to a point where i am committed to my self and don't seek their approval for whatever i am. And i mean this genuinely. I love them very much and can empathize with how things like bisexuality is very hard to grasp for them.

I am very independent and have no problems doing the things i want. I travel, i go on dates, i learn new things, i am introspective, i have good friends and yet i feel empty and not engaged with life like i once used to be. I don't seem to have a grand purpose for my existence. I have sat down and articulated that the general mission of my life -"is to love and serve people as best as i can". I am happy with how i do this professionally and personally in my life.

Other than this i don't seem to have a burning desire for anything - person, prosperity or property. I dont care anymore if i will be successful or unsuccessful in my career. I am ok if i dont make a lot of money as i once wanted. I am relaxed and chill. What seems like being in a good content place occasionally does come across as being in a dysfunctional life with no big goals or things to aspire for. I have these doubts maybe because i have become the opposite of how i used to be. I have come from a Type-A gogetter to Type-B whatever kind of person.

I want to do a sanity check with folks here on whether i might be depressed? Am i just bored with life? Could this be a signal that i am now healthy and ready to be a parent? I am 33 and divorced if that helps further.
posted by gadget_gal to Human Relations (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
"... now healthy and ready to be a parent"

Reading through your post, this came flying out of left field in relation to all the other things you'd been reflecting on. Yes, there sounds to be a bit of ennui at play, but I'm not altogether sure that the next logical step to alleviate this would necessarily be to become a parent. What do you mean by healthy? Is that emotionally? If you're asking the question then you're maybe not too sure yourself. Honestly, I don't think anyone else can or should tell you whether you're ready to be a parent, although I do empathise with the sort of emptiness you describe.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:32 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

i would say, if you: 'have a job that gives you satisfaction, are interested in and making progress with personal challenges, still travel, date, learn, have friends' - you are probably not depressed, or at least profoundly so. such a lifestyle sounds pretty healthy to me. a little depression now and then is normal anyway.

I would also say, as you enter your thirties, that it's natural that your priorities shift as you get older.. it sounds like you've seen a lot in your day.... and that perhaps you are on the verge, or in the middle of, some kind of "breakthrough" (spiritual?) I think you might find some answers you are looking for, or at least a discussion on these type of matters, in Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth; Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" - he addresses issues including striving, relationships, and existence.

also: one is probably never fully ready to be a parent. it's a head-spinning ride that will rock/upturn your world - even if you fully embrace it. Your perspective on all of your issues would shift if you were to have a child too.
posted by mrmarley at 3:41 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think a lot of people go through a phase around your age where they reassess all the things they were taught to believe about living a fulfilling life. I certainly did.

The reality of life for a lot of people is that, once you get through childhood, education and the first few years of adulthood, life won't necessarily continue on a predictable upward trajectory. Sometimes you'll be in one place for a while. Sometimes life will change quickly. Your successes and failures will probably turn out to be things that only make sense to yourself.

There is no 'great purpose' though. Or rather, there can be, but not for everyone, and even for those who find one, it doesn't necessarily mean happiness or fulfillment.

I can't say whether you're depressed, bored, or just need to adjust your expectations. I can say that becoming a parent just because the clock is ticking and you're a bit anxious about your direction is probably not a direction to follow right now.

If you're happy where you are, don't let the perceived expectations of other people, or the totally fake concept of a 'grand purpose', make you anxious. Be the settled person you feel comfortable with. That doesn't mean not challenging yourself by trying new things, and it sounds like you're fine in that respect. Try not to think in terms of 'purposes', but rather 'things that satisfy me'.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:51 AM on December 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

I am just going to throw this out there but before getting to the end of your post the thought that poped into my head was "what about children?" I was looking for the "I don't want kids sentence" which I didn't see. Then I got to the end and saw the part about being a parent. Yes out of left field but it was the thing I thought was unaddressed in your post. So I am going to suggest that you are thinking about having a child. I can't tell you if this is the right time or not in your life (cause its never perfect). Is it your real desire or your biological clock, who knows? This may or may not be at odds with your current feelings on having a partner. But my guess is that this is what your "restless" feeling is. I wish you all the best deciding.

PS: I am a mom in my 30's but not one of those, everyone must breed woman so you know what decision I chose.
posted by saradarlin at 6:15 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you're just past a restless period of your young adulthood and have now established a degree of stability that allows you to be content with what you have. I think you're also dealing with your "baby alarm" going off, common among women in their 30s.

Take it one day at a time and don't try to figure out what you "should" be doing. If your current arrangement – decent job, personal goals, single – makes you happy, keep doing that. If you run across some guy and think, "I want to have babies with this guy some day", then date him and see what happens. Rushing into something out of fear that you are running out of time is a recipe for disaster. Like you said, being independent and happy with yourself is a great place to be. If you found the right partner, maybe they would make you even more happy. It's hard to say because you obviously haven't met that person yet and are happy being single.

But don't worry about the "baby alarm" too much. Modern science is doing amazing things with fertility. My mother was 38 when she had me, and that was in the 80s!
posted by deathpanels at 6:30 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I dont feel any compelling need to be a parent. I have just been wondering if this baby thing is the root cause for this restlessness.
posted by gadget_gal at 6:41 AM on December 22, 2011

I think le morte said it pretty well in the last paragraph of their comment above. Going along with that, I think it's reasonable that there might be some friction between an imagined concept of "a good life" and what's happening in your life right now, which, to hear you tell it, sounds pretty good. I don't think things ever turn out exactly as we imagine they will. How could they? With that in mind, try not to get caught up in the differences between your concept of a good life and the life you're actually living right now. If you wonder too much about whether or not you're content, you might miss out on actually enjoying this phase of your life to the fullest.

And for what it's worth, I've read several Buddhist accounts of enlightenment (more specifically the cessation of craving/attachment) that refer to it as both the most significant thing in the person's life and also, at the same time, the greatest disappointment. I suspect this is due to all the hype and build up around something that may actually be quite simple and subtle. Again, there's this friction between what it's supposed to be (concept) and what it actually is (reality).
posted by 6and12 at 6:49 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

No big goals or things to aspire for.

I have no big goals or things to which I aspire either. I am pretty content with my lot in life. There is one thing that it isn't popular to point out but I think is true anyway: if you talk to people with children, a lot of their goals are typically built around the kids - move to a better school district, buy a bigger house, save for college, whatever. If you don't have those drivers (and I don't) your life is paced differently than the cultural norm; this lack of reference can be disconcerting.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:07 AM on December 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: you seem to have all the bases covered except one - what do you create? For so many people that restless urge manifests itself in procreation but that satisfaction can take many forms. You can make music, build furniture, write poetry, sculpt etc. These things are the reason we work. You don't need to be an acclaimed concert pianist to BE a pianist. It's the process of becoming, of bringing what is within us out that gives us our fulfillment in life. Contrary to everything mass media tells you, we are not put on this earth to consume we are here to form a tether to the universe.
posted by any major dude at 7:51 AM on December 22, 2011 [13 favorites]

Response by poster: Good point any major dude. I am quite committed to creativity. I work in the Internet industry and design software that helps people to connect with each other. I do love my line of work irrespective of whether i find success.

What you say here resonates. I am very much in search of an outlet to express all that's inside. I am trying my hand at guitar, i am very into DIY projects. I am enjoying this phase of figuring out how to express all that's inside of me. Maybe that's what is creating this restlessness. The urge to express all that's within but not exactly knowing how to.
posted by gadget_gal at 8:10 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm maybe totally off track here, but I figured I might as well throw this out there in case it resonates with you: reading this made me think of how I felt after a major depression/suicidal phase (when I decided I was scaring myself and to take every step to get better, obviously). In a way, I was very happy and peaceful, in a similar way you describe. But I also felt the same peaceful detachment. And ironically, I think it is that detachment that was causing the emptiness: for different reasons, I was unwilling to let myself be vulnerable to others, get hurt, let them connect with ME. You say:

I am very independent and have no problems doing the things i want. I travel, i go on dates, i learn new things, i am introspective, i have good friends and yet i feel empty and not engaged with life like i once used to be. I don't seem to have a grand purpose for my existence. I have sat down and articulated that the general mission of my life -"is to love and serve people as best as i can". I am happy with how i do this professionally and personally in my life.

If your situation is similar to mine, maybe now it's not about loving and serving THEM, but letting them love and serve YOU. My motto is that connecting is, more than reaching out, letting people really see you. Accepting the fact that you will probably get hurt again, hard, but that that's what makes life engaging and thrilling, and opens up to tons of other things, and that being connected with people like that will make you feel truly engaged in your life.

As I said, perhaps I'm totally off track and projecting here, but how you described your feeling, and the wording you used, really made me think of how I was and how I expressed myself at that time.
Just my 2 cents.
posted by kitsuloukos at 10:58 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

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